The Pacific Northwest was built in large part on the back of a booming logging industry. Since those early days, the region is known for dense, wild forest lands and progressive forest management. The States of Washington and Oregon take trees very seriously. You may be aware of state laws that severely punish those who cut down trees without permission on the land of another. For example, ORS 105.810 and RCW 64.12.030 allow for triple damages against someone held liable for "timber trespass."
However, you may not be aware that, beyond the severe penalties in state law, many municipalities have tree removal ordinances which, if violated, carry civil enforcement penalties that can add up to tens of thousands of dollars.
One of the reasons to be aware of these potential penalties from a community association perspective, is that most associations are required to maintain, repair, and replace common area property. In circumstances when that obligation extends to landscaping and trees, there are steps the board of directors can take to avoid exposing the association to liability.
First, have a landscaping maintenance plan that includes regular visual inspections. "Regular" can be monthly, quarterly, bi-annually, or whatever makes sense for your community. Even if the landscaping work is infrequent, keeping an eye on the trees in the community is good practice to ensure (a) they are still there and no one has cut them down without permission, (b) they are not in danger of falling over or shedding large limbs that can injure community members, and (c) they are not infringing on power lines or other areas that can impact the whole community.
Second, if maintenance is required beyond simple trimming, as determined by the association's landscaping contractor (ideally) or the board of directors (after reviewing evidence), take extra precaution. Most tree topping and removal requires a permit. Do not hesitate to reach out to the relevant municipal or county government and tell them about the proposed work and why it is required. Many municipalities will send someone out to check on the trees for free. They will usually check the trees themselves, as well as provide written guidance on slide areas, environmentally sensitive areas, or any number of other potential issues.
Taking the time to check with the city can avoid an expensive lesson in municipal authority. The cost of a permit is drastically lower than a fine for illegally removing trees. Barker Martin has assisted many community associations with maintenance and compliance issues, as well as timber trespass claims against owners or neighbors who committed timber trespass against the association. If we can help your community with these issues, or anything else, please do not hesitate to reach out.
The Pacific Northwest was built in large part on the back of a booming logging industry. Since those early days, the region is known for dense, wild forest lands and progressive forest management. The States of Washington and Oregon take trees very seriously. You may be aware of state laws that severely punish those who cut down trees without permission on the land of another. For example, ORS 105.810 and RCW 64.12.030 allow for triple damages against someone held liable for "timber trespass." read more
Last week I argued a case before the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. My client owns a hotel on the Oregon Coast. Several years ago, a hundred year storm flooded the lowest floor of the hotel. My client participated in the National Flood Insurance Program, which is a FEMA backed flood insurance program. The majority of the claim was denied because the bottom floor of the hotel was deemed to be a "basement." The insurance company also argued that the proof of loss, which was submitted by the insurance company's agent, was not timely. The District Court agreed with the insurance company and held that despite the insurance company's appointed agent taking control of the process, essentially my client should have ignored the insurance company's instructions. read more
Oregon and Washington state law authorize condominium and homeowners' associations to impose and collect late fees for late payment of assessments. In some cases, the association's declaration may state when an assessment is considered delinquent but often the declaration does not provide the amount of the late fee or how frequently it will be imposed. One way an association may establish the amount of the late fee is for the Board to adopt a collections policy. In addition to stating the amount of the late fee, the collections policy can also provide the interest rate that will be assessed, as well as provide clear, concise procedures for handling delinquent accounts. read more
Please join us in congratulating our colleague, Alexis Ducich, on making partner! Those of you who have used us for collections or worked with Ali in any respect know that she is a great attorney and is dedicated to providing the highest level of collection services in Washington and Oregon. Ali has long been an invaluable member of the Barker Martin team and we are happy to call her our partner and friend. We look forward to working together for many years to come. If you are going to WSCAI's CA Day on Saturday, please come by our booth to say congrats - or join us after the event. (Details at the booth!) read more
Please join us in welcoming Bria Wedgeworth! Bria is an attorney based in our Seattle office and will primarily be assisting with general counsel related matters. Prior to joining Barker Martin, Bria worked on the Legal Integration Support team at T-Mobile assisting with the upcoming merger with Sprint. Bria attended John Marshall Law School in Chicago where she competed in several moot court and dispute resolution competitions, and also had the chance to study abroad in Switzerland! We are very excited to have Bria as part of the Barker Martin team! read more